Neverwinter should be a perfect fit for home consoles. The game’s limited ability set and action combat put it right in line with other action RPGs. The smaller maps seem designed less to get lost in and more to wreak havok through; perfect for small groups and short burst sessions. The game is also beautiful with its plentiful, over-saturated color palette, but isn’t a powerhouse to kill performance. To say nothing of its modular, DLC-rich content approach. All of that just screams console.
Thankfully, the game mostly lives up to that promise on the PlayStation 4. As it should. With more than a year of prep time on the Xbox One, Cryptic has had plenty of time to translate the experience to consoles and polish it to a fine sheen. It’s not perfect, but for the most part, this is the same Neverwinter we reviewed back in 2013. If you’ve played it and enjoyed it on PC, the PS4 version delivers the same experience plus every campaign unlocked from the get go -- plus a few unwanted technical issues we’ll get to later.
Gameplay - 8
The game’s active, dodge-based combat translates perfectly. After collecting your missions in the area’s quest hub, tearing through the enemies scattered across the campaign map feels absolutely natural on the DualShock 4. Jumping out of the red danger zones is easy since class abilities are bound to L3. Cryptic has done an excellent job of translating Neverwinter’s controls to the gamepad, using the face buttons and triggers for abilities and attacks, and the left shoulder button as a modifier to access functions such as the world map, chat, and inventory.
Everything that isn’t mapped needs to be accessed through a cumbersome screen of menus and submenus. There are simply too many functions in an MMO to not include a menu system, it’s just that Neverwinter’s is so rudimentary. Something as simple as accessing the settings menu takes six separate presses, so there is definitely room for improvement. Interface elements can also be selected manually by cycling to them with the dualshock’s touch pad. Once you get used to the system, navigating to what you need speeds up substantially.
Beyond the basics of control, this is almost identical to the PC version, including all of the updates and improvements made since its 2013 launch. You will still be heading off into instanced quest areas, finding secrets, solving puzzles, and hitting story beats. Cryptic has added in a generous aim-assist to make up for the less precise joysticks and, rather than dumb it down, it made it preserved the satisfying hack-and-slash identity of the original. Loot veritably rains from the sky as each mission promises you some goodies, money, or rough astral diamonds to refine and exchange for cash shop currency.
This is Dungeons and Dragons, and it’s best to adventure with friends. You can form your own party or use the game’s built in queue tools for formal group content. Voice chat turns on automatically, but I found few players actually using it. This is a shame, but not surprising with PSN’s anemic VOIP community.
As you play, you’ll also unlock companion characters that can be outfitted and leveled up. Companion control is rudimentary at best, as is their AI, but it gets the job done. Upgrading companions is disappointingly grindy unless you spend real money on upgrade tokens. Even the basic companions should see you through most of the game, however, and will still work well for the real-time, set it and forget it, gathering and crafting quests.
There is always something to do in Neverwinter. You can quest, complete dungeons, take on campaigns, PVP, or queue up for an ever rotating series of PVE and PVP events. Instanced PVP (there are some open world areas, too) comes in three flavors - Domination, Gauntlgrym, and Stronghold siege warfare -- ranging from 5v5 to 20v20. I enjoyed PVP, though am admittedly less than stellar, and in this case wished I could have used a mouse for aiming my attacks.
The major drawback to the PlayStation version of Neverwinter is the lack of any kind of Foundry tools. For most of the game’s life on PC, the Foundry provided players with tools to make their own campaigns for other players to enjoy and add immeasurable life to the post-campaign game. Without user created content, Neverwinter on PS4 is handicapped. That said, the Foundry has been disabled on the PC version of the game for months with no return in sight. Players are rightfully questioning whether or not Cryptic may be planning on sunsetting the service as it no longer appears on the feature list where it was previously prominently placed.
Visuals and Sound - 7
Neverwinter has always opted for style over substance in its approach to visuals. The color palette looks as great as it did in 2013, but everything else just looks dated. It’s clear that Cryptic struggled to get the game running reasonably on the PS4 and visual fidelity is noticeably scaled back from the PC version. This is understandable to a degree, but the game should simply look better for how it runs. Character models can vary from decent to downright poor. Environment assets are also showing their age with many set pieces looking blocky and polygonal. Neverwinter doesn’t look bad, but compared to other games on the platform, it fails to impress. The audio is on par with other MMOs on the market, however.
Polish - 7
The PS4 version of Neverwinter clearly benefitted from its incubation period on Xbox One. It is completely functional and provides acceptable access to every system through the main menu. The game’s performance is a problem. It regularly slowed down and stuttered to an irritating degree. When indoors, this wasn’t an issue, and in most other areas, Neverwinter impresses while still having room for improvement.
Longevity - 8
One of the best parts of Neverwinter on PS4 is that there is just so much to do. In our 2013 review, Suzie gave a list of additions Cryptic would have to make to make Neverwinter more than a “interesting, yet short” diversion. They have accomplished almost all of them and the game is better for it. Nearly every piece of content released on PC is available for free here, including 9 races and 8 classes which can be monumental for your playstyle. Even if you choose to never reroll, you have hundred of hours of content at your fingertips.
Value - 9
While the game does encourage you to buy lockboxes and sells a myriad of items (not just boosters) in their cash shop, you can also spend time and refine rough astral diamonds to earn them through gameplay. Like many games that “offer” this, it’s so unappealing that you’ll probably just buy the items anyway. Still, because the game is less competitive than other MMOs, and there is an option, it never really felt pay to win.
Overall, it’s hard to argue that Neverwinter on PS4 is anything other than a great deal. You get every campaign and content addition since 2013 without needing to pay a cent. Cryptic has regularly impressed with their additions, so to get these for free feels extremely generous, and it’s hard to begrudge them for upselling you on the Zen Market.
If you’re in the market for a lightweight console MMO, look no further than Neverwinter. It’s a steal.